Finger Clicking and Snapping

finger click
Finger clicking and snapping is a common problem.. Marcela Barsse / Getty Images

Finger clicking, popping, and snapping are common symptoms of finger conditions. The most common cause of finger popping is not a problem at all. Many people can make their fingers pop, often called cracking their knuckles. When there is no pain associated with finger popping, it is seldom a problem.

Tendon Problems

Tendon snapping is usually the result of a trigger finger. Trigger fingers are usually noticed when relaxing a fist; as the fingers straighten, the trigger finger may snap open, or may stay stuck in a bent position.

Finger tendons can also snap after a traumatic injury. If the finger tendons are damaged, they may slide out from their normal position. This is called a tendon subluxation, and most commonly seen on the back of the hand as the tendon slides off the knuckle and into the groove between the fingers.

Ligament Injuries

Ligaments hold joints together and are often damaged when a finger is sprained or dislocated. If the ligament heals improperly, the joint may pop or snap during bending.

Finger Arthritis

Finger arthritis can cause the wearing away of the normal smooth cartilage surfaces of the joints. As arthritis worsens, joint movements can become limited and painful. Arthritic joints in the fingers often cause swollen, 'knobby' knuckles.

Finger arthritis can cause popping and snapping as a result of small bone spurs around the arthritic joints. The joints may pop or snap because of uneven surfaces or alignment abnormalities.

Patients may notice small bumps around the arthritic joints called a mucous cyst.

When Is a Click a Problem?

Finger snapping and clicking have not been shown to be a cause of arthritis, despite what you may have been told.  However, that is not to say that finger clicking is never a problem.  The most common sign of a problem that is related to snapping or clicking is pain associated with the noise.

  So if you have a click or a snap in your finger, and it hurts when the click or snap occurs, it is worthwhile to have the finger checked by your doctor.  Sometimes there are simple solutions to these problems, and others that may require more invasive treatment.

Sources:

Deweber K, et al. "Knuckle cracking and hand osteoarthritis" J Am Board Fam Med. 2011 Mar-Apr;24(2):169-74.

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